Otto Gumaelius

Marimba Music From Southern Africa

Otto Gumaelius is a London based, Botswana raised, performing artist & teacher of southern African folk music on the marimba.

Gandanga: Folk Songs of Southern Africa

Gandanga is a tune that was sung by the guerrilla combatants during the independence struggle from the illegal, racist government of Ian Smith, in what was then called Rhodesia. Songs like these would have been sung during the night time when the combatants sought refuge in the various villages. Very tongue-in-cheek, the combatants sing that they cannot be fed okra, because otherwise they will become ill or go insane. They of course want to be fed meat! After all, they are out fighting for the freedom of their people!

Some commentators draw parallels to modern day politics, where far too often political leaders think they are justified in their demands for things like huge pay cheques because they claim to be serving the people. Perhaps this is why Chiwoniso Maraire sang in her beautiful song Rebel Woman, "there will be no compensation, it was of your free will, that you stood on the front line. Rebel woman, these are the rules of war. Remember that you fought for your people, and all the freedom's been hard won, it's been so hard won. But as you weep rebel woman, remember you were strong".

It's a reminder of the harsh reality that when you stand up and fight for what you believe in, your ultimate reward lies in what you achieve for your people, rather than what your people will give you in return.

The lyrics to Gandanga go:

Gandanga haridye derere (A rebel doesn't eat okra)
mukoma rinorwara (Brother, it would make them ill)
Gandanga haridye derere (A rebel doesn't eat okra)
mukoma rinopenga (Brother, it would make them crazy)

Here's a marimba version I performed with my band a few weeks ago at the annual Africa Utopia festival at the Southbank Centre in London.

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